Financial Savior


By:Dylan Ratigan

For those of us living in the United States, our economy is predicated on capitalism. The idea that with hard work and dedication, any of us can be successful. You just need to believe in yourself. What’s interesting about this is that it stands in stark contrast to our hardwired nature to want to believe in someone or something else. A savior.

Be it in religion, healthcare, sports or investing, we want to believe there is someone we can place our faith with and that person will guide us to a fortuitous outcome. We put ourselves in the hands of these oracles because they know better, or so we think, and if they mess up, we have someone to blame.

It’s understandable in certain situations that we would turn to experts. Most of us don’t understand the complexities of our health, so we see a doctor. We cheer on local sports heroes and place faith in their ability to bring home a championship. For things we can’t quite seem to understand, many people turn to religion. And when it comes to money, we look to investing geniuses. You know them. They have names like Madoff.

It’s a delicate system when you dissect it. Some of the things most important, things that rest at our core being, we willingly cede control to someone or something else. It’s a system of trust that stands in stark contrast to the idea you can do anything you set your mind to. However, the biggest risk to the system isn’t simply that those we trust will fail, it’s fraud.

There is an endless list of schemers who preyed on trust. Promises of delivering salvation through a pious life of giving, mainly money, were fronts for nefarious and excessive lifestyles. Inventors of new ways of conducting healthcare that could diagnose everything about you through a single drop of blood turned out to be frauds. Investors promising returns far beyond anything the market offered or you could achieve on your own, were nothing more than modern day bank robbers.

We tell children they can grow up to be anything they want. By the time they reach adulthood, they realize their dreams of playing in the NBA were cut short by being too short. Medical school was too difficult. Not everyone can be what they wanted to be as a child. In effect, we learn we were lied to as kids but then perpetuate the lie to the next generation because we haven’t come up with anything better to offer.

Perhaps it’s time we change our tune some. Maybe it’s okay to tell kids they can’t all be professional athletes because they don’t have the size. They probably won’t be a doctor because they don’t have the aptitude. But there are things anyone can do. In fair and efficient markets, everyone has an equal chance. Height is irrelevant. Aptitude is much less important. A fair and efficient market levels the playing field for everyone, giving anyone the same probability of success. If we teach kids that and offer them the skills needed to participate in those markets, then maybe this Bernie Madoff series on Netflix can be the last time we have to hear about financial fraudsters, because when it comes to efficient markets, there are no saviors.

Special Projects writer Josh Fabian contributed to this article.

Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before deciding to invest in options.

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